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Water Shortages Make Every Day Life A Struggle In Zimbabwe's Cities

Experts say water shortages in Zimbabwe have reached alarming proportions.

Residents of Harare, Bulawayo and and other cities go without water for days and say daily rituals including bathing, cooking or general cleaning are virtually impossible.

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Shortages have several causes: ageing infrastructure with pipes and pumps installed before independence in 1980 breaking down, poor system management and a lack of political will to tackle and solve the massive problem.

Many say the recent takeover of municipal water operations across the nation by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority has merely exacerbated the problem.

Health experts worry that as people turn to unsafe water sources, there could be more outbreaks of disease – diarrhea, dysentery, cholera - with fatal consequences.

Harare Director of Health Services Prosper Chonzi said recently that contaminated water from burst sewer pipes and water shortages were responsible for 900 cases of diarrhea recorded in the capital's 60 clinics. In July, 20 children in Kadoma, Midlands, reportedly died from diarrhea after drinking contaminated water.

The water shortage and general erratic supply of water, along with almost constant electric power cuts, has also been blamed for reduced economic output.

Reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to experts Michael Davies, chairman of the Combined Harare Residents Association, and Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube, executive director of the Bulawayo City Council, who said that the nationwide water crisis has not at all been exaggerated in news reports.

In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city, the deepening water crisis has caused tempers to flare, resulting in residents desperately seeking ways to cope with the scarcity of water for drinking, cooking and washing.

Correspondent Netsai Mlilo reported that city officials say the efforts of some citizens to find alternative water sources are hindering efforts to solve the problem.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...